Saturday, May 30, 2009

The New Covers!

These are the new covers of the tomes that will be coming out in the fall from Harper Collins. You can pre-order them at the convention!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Essay Contest Honorable Mention

I find this particular character particularly inspiring too - please enjoy the first of the Honorable Mention Essays! - Barb

The Woman in the Betsy-Tacy Series That I Most Admire

There are many appropriate role models for girls in the Betsy-Tacy series. Certainly Betsy and Julia are models of women of the arts. They follow their passions, in Julia’s case to the exclusion of everything else at times. Emily is an exemplary woman with a cause. It’s always uplifting to see someone set out to change the world - or at least her small corner of it. However, I have selected a woman who did not choose her life’s path but rather had it thrust upon her. It is her response to the unforeseen that makes this woman truly great. The woman I have chosen is Miss Cobb.
“Miss Cobb, a large, mild, blonde woman . . . was a Deep Valley institution, and one of its most widely admired heroines.” It seems strange to choose a character who is sadly lacking a Christian name (She is called Jessie Cobb in Emily of Deep Valley, but as Emily is not widely read she remains Miss to the majority of us.). What little we know about her comes to us through Betsy Was a Junior and Betsy and Joe, even though Julia had taken lessons from her in years past. Miss Cobb was engaged to marry, but broke off her own engagement to raise her sister’s four children following her sister’s death from tuberculosis. Two of the children died of the disease some time thereafter and the third child, Leonard, is suffering from terminal tuberculosis. At the turn of the century the loss of a loved one was not the rare exception and Miss Cobb met it in the way many women of the day did. The now-orphaned niece and nephews needed a home and she gave them one. We never find out what happened to the fiancĂ© and no one visibly misses him, least of all Miss Cobb.
Miss Cobb was not alone in having illness impact her life. The early part of the twentieth century was a time before the wonder drugs and the tenuousness of life was part of the time. Maud spares us much of this uncertainty, so dread diseases were a larger part of Maud’s life than of Betsy’s. Baby Bee dies both in Betsy-Tacy and in real life, Tacy had diphtheria in Betsy, Tacy and Tib, but for the most part illness is not prevalent in the series. The typhoid epidemic of the summer of 1908 is not mentioned, for example, although the death of Cab’s father (who in reality lived into his eighties, a pleasant surprise for many of us) may have been inspired by the real-life events. The real-life Leonard did die of tuberculosis and this is a very real representation of the handling of sickness and the reality of young people facing death.
As a person Miss Cobb is calm and cheerful. In fact, those are the two words Maud uses most. She is described as “calm and courageous”, “calm and cheerful”, “ so cheerful all winter” and finally “calmly cheerful”! She does not fuss over Leonard. In fact, she teases him when he’s leaving for the sanitarium that he ought not write his usual “having-a-fine-time-hope-you-are-too kind of letters”. “Miss Cobb . . . was as calm and cheerful as though he were going to St. John to play football instead of the Colorado mountains to die.” When Leonard does die she goes to get his body and had a funeral. “Then lessons began again. Miss Cobb looked pale, but she was as calmly cheerful as ever. She didn’t mention the recital, though. There was no recital that year.”
Miss Cobb is a daughter of Deep Valley and the adults would feel guilty having their children start piano with any other teacher. The Ray family discusses her:
“She’s a better musician than she is a teacher, Julia had remarked one time.
And a finer human being than either, Mr. Ray had added.”

She does not live on charity, but the citizens feel it incumbent upon them to provide her with a living. Yet it is this self-sufficiency that gives Miss Cobb her strength. One gets the feeling that she chose to teach piano because it’s what she knows and is good at, but if she had not studied piano she would have found an equally effective career path. Miss Cobb is a survivor and self-sufficient. She becomes the prototypical career woman of the twentieth century not by desire but by circumstance. “Dear, brave Miss Cobb!”

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Everyone's Talking About the Betsy-Tacy!

Thanks to Julie Chuba, kindest, sweetest web-mistress and all around fig - I present a list of links where other people talk about the convention!

My favorite is Melissa Wiley's story about discovering the books as a young staffer at Harper Collins. I'm sure she thought she was the only one!

Cool Kids Read mentions the books as well.

Even college kids are still reading the tomes!

Some bloggers are mentioning the convention itself. Unplug your kids mentions it . As does Joelle Anthony who is going to be there!

There are mentions on the Greater Mankato Events page and they even include the agenda, which made me even more excited about the convention. Well, I have had that low-intensity excitement for nearly a year, but is just seems so wonderfully SOON now! Meg Cabot mentions it on her Tour Information page. Even the Hibbing Public Library mentions us!

I am off to read a little Carney's House Party in anticipation! Thanks Julie, for the links.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

First Visit to Deep Valley

Today's guest blogger is Jennifer Davis-Kay of Arlington, Massachusetts. She is a long-time Betsy-Tacy fanatic and one of my dearest friends. It was my great honor to be with her two summers ago on one of her 29th birthdays on her first visit to Mankato. The following is her account of that auspicious occasion. I just love Jen's writing and I will be nagging her for more tidbits from her trip to Minnesota to post here - and not just because I am in them! The third in our immortal trio is Kathy Baxter who will be the keynote speaker at the convention. Jen is the glamorous redhead in the photo, Kathy is the well-dressed, poised one on the right. I am the one that looks like she is made out of perspiration. If you want to know where this mysterious photo was taken, read on! Take it away Jen!~

Off to Mankato! So much to photo-document . . . and my digital camera wasn’t working (no batteries). Kathy and Barb didn’t even have digital cameras. Such a dilemma! We drove through “St. John” and rolled down the windows to yell “Poor old St. John! Poor old St. John!” We also passed through the valley of the Jolly Green Giant (ho ho ho)! And then—we were in Deep Valley. Weep, weep! Fortunately, the mighty Walgreens has even penetrated Deep Valley, and batteries were secured—what a relief. Barb took a test picture of me and Kathy to be sure.

Our first stop: the (closed) Carnegie Library; Barb tried to make me scale the ivy and break in, but not even for the sake of and awesome photo would I take that particular chance. We drove by churches, some original and some not. (Betsy’s Baptist church is now a frat house! Yikes!)

Next stop, Carney’s house, and holy cow! there’s a girl walking in! Barb pressed a $20 bill and the paperback of Carney’s House Party into my hands and said, “It’s your birthday, get in that house!” I stood in the hallway (it’s an apartment building) just touching the walls and feeling verklempt, when along comes the same girl, who looked at me in confusion. Helpfully, I burst into tears and began to babble. The girl seemed to catch the words “book” and “this house” and “Carney,” and said, “Um, would you like to see my apartment?” Would I! Oh, and can I bring my friends? So that is how Jen, Barb, and Kathy got into the apartment with the sleeping porch. We spied the window entrance, went on point like hunting dogs, and asked if it would bear our weight. “Sure . . .” the girl said, polite but not in any way getting why we wanted to do this. One at a time, we crawled through the window—Maud described it perfectly—and had our picture taken. HEAVEN. We could’ve stayed for hours, but oh this poor girl. So we didn’t. But we did give her the book, and she seemed pleased.

And this was especially thrilling because it was something that Kathy “Ms. Deep Valley” Baxter had never done before!

It’s worth noting that the sleeping porch is kinda freaky-looking from the outside, where it bulges pregnantly from the second story. What’s holding it up? Faith?

Time for champagne (well, when isn’t it, really)! [Note: It was the authoress's birthday, hence the boozy celebration. She is not generally in the habit of imbibing before noon, honest.] We reached the Houses, where Kristin sat on Betsy’s porch, awaiting us. No bench, disappointment, but we sat on the steps, cracked open our (first) bottle, and enjoyed mimosas and Mom’s coffeecake while gazing upon Betsy’s House and Tacy’s House. My beautifully groomed feet were noted and photo-documented, for posterity. Dang, it was hot. Thank goodness for my fan(ner), Barb. And also: nirvana.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Blame it on Joe!

It appears that no one has updated this blog in awhile! I have some feelers out for more guest bloggers - let me know if you are interested. I am currently leading a group read of Betsy and Joe on the Maud List. Which is taking all my writing time. Well, I have a list of excuses as long as my arm - but I will go with this one:


I am currently looking over the specs of the Alltel center to see where we should put different things and it just looks so amazing! The reception hall used to be the First National Bank and has been restored with the original bank vaults and stained glass windows. The pictures are beautiful. You can see some pictures here. It is just lovely.

I am also looking over the menus and it goes without saying that I will be bringing some elastic waist pants. Maybe a nice roomy sun dress. I plan to be packing it in. And I hear that when you plan ahead to be a glutton the food has half the calories that it usually contains. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Save a bit of money!

You have no idea how easy blogging can be if you can keep getting other people to do the writing for you!

Here is Radhika with some EXCELLENT news regarding the registration deadline:

It has been so wonderful to hear the enthusiasm from everyone who has registered for the convention! The days are fast approaching ... and you can read the counter on the convention website to count down the days and hours until it begins! We know this has been long-awaited and will be a wonderfully fun event.

When the committee started working on the convention, now almost 15 months
ago, we had no inkling (as so many did not) that the economy would take the downturn that it has. My main concern at that time was the transportation cost for our buses, as fuel was reaching near $4.50 a gallon and was predicted to go higher (which thankfully did not happen!). We did not know that times would become so hard for so many people from that time until now.

When we planned our finances, we wanted to provide an incentive for early registration, the way most conventions and meetings do, by providing a discounted registration rate of $245 per person until May 1. Well, thanks to all of the early registrants as well as a generous grant from the Mankato Convention Bureau of $1500, I am happy to say that we have all the money we need up front to pay for our venue costs and deposits.

As such, we want to extend this small bounty to everyone who may be able to attend. So, we are keeping the discounted registration fee of $245 (rather than increasing it to $275) in place until June 15. We know that so many people want to attend, but with the economic uncertainty may not yet know whether they have the funds, and as the goal of the convention is to have as
many people as would like to attend be in Mankato this summer, we hope that this helps anyone who has not yet registered have a little extra boost to make it possible to attend. In the end, this is all a labor of love in the spirit of Maud, and we really hope that everyone who wants to can come! For those who may not know, all proceeds from the convention that are not used to cover the costs of the convention will be donated to the Betsy-Tacy Society.

BTW, in terms of clothing, I am with everyone else in saying that there is definitely no formality and you may wear whatever is comfortable. On Saturday night during the Great World dinner, a dark silk will do :-) or regular everyday clothing. Costumes are definitely encouraged but not mandatory (as Barb once said, we are costume-friendly). On Sunday night is Betsy's Wedding, so, again, if you wish to dress for the occasion, that is great, or any other daily wear clothing is acceptable as well. Make sure you bring your dancing shoes, though, if you plan to Muster Your Wits and dance at Shelby's dance lessons on Monday morning! And bring your running shoes if
you want to run the 5K up the Big Hill with Susan A and friends!

We hope to see you there!